Waratahs find silver lining on-field after off-field drama

Super Rugby
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

A fortnight of drama for the Waratahs could ironically be the catalyst for on-field continuity in the NSW backline and Karmichael Hunt stands to be a major beneficiary.

While the drama of Israel Folau’s absence continues to swirl, it has forced  the debate over the Waratahs backline to settle in the back half of the year.

With Folau stood down, Kurtley Beale was shifted to fullback against the Rebels with Hunt and Adam Ashley-Cooper teaming up in the centres.

It's a move Hunt welcomed, with the utility forthcoming about his preference to play in the 12 jersey and admitted it could even help his Wallabies chances.

"Probably, yeah (it could improve World Cup chances). I guess you want to  to be playing as many minutes as possible and I guess I've been pretty vocal about 12 being probably better suited to me than 15,” he said.

"But obviously I can bounce around positions and fill gaps when needed, but I enjoy playing in the middle and a consistent run  at it in the 12 jersey and I’m pleased about that."

"Again Wallabies is a different discussion, which will be had at a different time.

"But for the Waratahs, it's the Sharks this weekend at the new stadium at Parramatta, so we're all looking forward to it."

The combination that proved successful, and significantly for a side that has had seen a revolving door of rotation this season, it could spell continuity for the rest the season.

"It's (continuity is) super important,” Hunt said.

“But obviously we didn't have the luxury of the continuity at the start of the year because you've got guys who need a rest, you had positions that multiple guys could fill.

“Now unfortunately the situation that has happened, it's given us the ability to maintain some consistency with our lineup.

“Hopefully injuries don't play a part moving forwards, the boys can continue to obviously show good form, continue to build continuity and the partnerships help that.”

Beale and Hunt had effectively been competing for that inside centre spot for much of the season and Hunt was also considered a back-up fullback for Folau.

Now, though, Hunt said he expected Beale to stay at the back after his impressive outing at 15.

"(Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson), at the start of the year mentioned 15 could be a possibility at some point, but I guess now the situation is leaning towards obviously Kurtley playing there, and he played a really fantastic game there on the weekend, controlled the kicking, our territory battle really well," Hunt said.

"So I think Kurtley put his hand up and owned that jersey on the weekend, I’m sure he's going to get the chance to play again this weekend."

Hunt said he hadn’t spoken to Wallabies coach Michael Cheika recently but was focused on simply pushing his claims through Super Rugby.

“Not recently no, but in terms of the feedback from my coaches my intimate environment with the Waratahs there's been plenty,” he said.

"I've been working real closely with Daryl ,obviously  him being a class centre from back in the day.

"He's definitely enjoying adding some tools to my game and reviewing my games as well, so we're working through a partnership here  as well as  obviously the coaching partnership as well."

The key for the Waratahs as they prepare to face the Sharks is ensuring that they back up their Rebels win, something they have struggled to do this season.

"I think first and foremost just to have that positive reinforcement around what we did well against the Rebels, having a really honest appraisal around what we can do better, but keeping it positive throughout the week," Hunt said.

"Confidence it takes time to build, but it can be lost pretty quickly as well. I

"In terms of utilising the confidence that we gained from the weekend’s performance against the Rebels, I think we need to continue harness that, which we have been, continue to manifest it throughout the training sessions through the week and then obviously take it into the Sharks and not dwell on the slip up that we had against the Sunwolves up in Newcastle after a great win against the Crusaders .

"(We need to) just worry what we did well on the weekend, be honest about what we need to fix up and let’s move forward and take it into this weekend."

The Waratahs take on the Sharks on Saturday April 27 at BankWest Stadium, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo Sports and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.